The chief of the U.N. oil-for-food probe accused Congress of jeopardizing his work and asked a House committee to return secret documents, saying the lives of some witnesses could be at stake. But the Republican lawmaker who heads the committee promptly refused.
Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker is seeking to dampen controversy over recent claims by Robert Parton, a former FBI agent who quit the U.N. probe in protest. Parton says Volcker’s inquiry played down evidence that incriminated Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
At a news conference Friday, Volcker reiterated that there simply was never enough evidence to prove that Annan influenced the awarding of an oil-for-food contract to the Swiss company that employed his son, Kojo Annan. But he again insisted that his committee finding was not the exoneration that Kofi Annan claimed it was.
He also asked the House International Relations Committee to return secret documents Parton has given it, warning that witnesses could be threatened if anything leaks out.
“We’re not playing games here, we are dealing – and let me just emphasize this – in some cases with lives,” Volcker said.
But Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, the chairman of the committee, rejected the request, saying in a statement late Friday that he appreciates “the gravity of the concerns” but his panel has “an obligation to continue its inquiry.”
Three congressional committees are investigating allegations of kickbacks and bribes in the oil-for-food program. The $64 billion program allowed Saddam Hussein’s government to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.